Justice and equality

By Barbara F. Dyer | Sep 12, 2019
Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer Pictures is the Camden Girls Scouts Troop 1 in 1934.

“What goes around, comes around.” Everything changes in life. In school we learned about equality and justice for all men (and women), and we believed it. Not always so.

My experience of equality began many years ago, when I was just a kid. In those days, boys were more important than girls. Really. In my mind, even then, there was a twinkle of doubt about this.

I vividly remember that they had “boys' day” in school and the boys were taken on a trip to Pemaquid or some place that was a treat. This was mainly because not many families had a car in the Great Depression, so our horizons did not extend much beyond Camden. While the boys were enjoying a beautiful day, we girls had to stay in school and study.

The boys had a Boy Scout Troop for many years before the girls finally had one in 1934, so we became Troop 1, when later another Troop was formed. It was difficult to find a leader for the girls and we never went on camping trips or a hike. We certainly could not afford uniforms, but Mr. Thomas Watson the founder of IBM, summered here and gave our troop $50. We each came up with one more dollar and had uniforms.

The boys spent many evenings at the Y.M.C.A. located then on Chestnut Street. They played pool, bowled and scrimmaged on the basketball court, giving them something to do to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But girls were only allowed in the building for basketball practice, two nights a week, because they said it was a Young Men's Christian Association. So in high school, quite often the boys were Knox-Lincoln Champions of Basketball, but the girls had trouble being the winner of any team they played. Membership to the Y was $1. Yes, only $1, but in those days that was a lot of money and girls who played basketball had to have a membership. We did not get our money’s worth as the boys did. On a nice day, the boys were allowed to go out doors and rake the ball diamond, while we girls stayed in school and studied.

Yes, we were meant to be different from boys, so we were not allowed to wear slacks or ski pants to school, even on stormy days. We could wear them under our skirts, but remove them in the coat room. School was not called off very often due to stormy weather, because there were no buses on the roads to worry about. We did carry a pair of slacks for physical education classes. No one wore dungarees, they were for laborers only, not school children (or teachers). Holes were not the “in thing” in pants for boys, because it meant they were poor and couldn't afford decent pants for school.

We had only women teachers in the grade schools, who all wore tailored dresses. One high school teacher I remember had four dresses exactly alike, except they were black, navy blue, dark green and dark brown. Of course their salaries were not very large either, so that is what she could probably afford. However, she was an excellent teacher with a very dry sense of humor. Her hearing must have been great, as she could let you know (and everyone else in class) if you were whispering to someone near you.

Apparently parents felt the same way about boys and girls. My brother had a bobsled and in the winter Chestnut Street was closed from Limerock down all the way to Frye Street. It was a two-way street by the Post Office then. We lived at 125 Chestnut and were not about to walk to Limerock, when it was a greater ride from where we lived. Of course there were no brakes on the bobsled, so it was really moving fast when we approached Frye Street. So we continued by the Post Office, around the corner to Bay View Street and the sled continued until the rise in the road at the Yacht Club. I rode on it but was never allowed to steer it.

The same was with the ice-boat my Father built and kept on the Lily Pond. We would take the cold, long walk through fields and woods to sail on the iceboat, but we were used to long cold walks to school. There again, I was not allowed to steer it. I would ride on it and when my brother would move the tiller approaching the ledges, he would say “duck your head,” because the boom was heavy if it hit. They were cold rides, but we had our ice skates so would skate to get warmed up before the long walk home.

Times are different today and women do men's jobs, even to the point of becoming a boss over some men. The pendulum has swung and now some larger companies must hire a certain number of the minority (including women). Sometimes it is fair and sometimes perhaps not so.

Well, we have come a long way and girls dress in slacks more than dresses. Some women wear short hair cuts like a man, but some young men wear long hair like girls. They also wear earrings. I have no objection to a person's right to adorn their body however they wish. My frustration comes when I cannot figure out what gender they really are.

Yes, what a long, long way we have come, with many thanks to Susan B. Anthony and others along the way, so that we “minority” women can also vote. Some movement of the pendulum is for the better, but when it swings too far it makes it worse. The happy medium is always the best answer. Right?


Pictured is a bobsled, date unknown. (Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer)
Pictured is the 1941 Camden High School Basketball Team. (Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer)
Pictured is Barbara Dyer in 1942. (Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer)
The Camden YMCA was built in 1907. (Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer)
Pictured is an iceboat in 1936 (Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 13, 2019 16:17

Thanks Barbara for the journey, one we both lived through.  Now I see the "New" woman and am sure we as a society are headed in the right direction. Sunny here in Arizona and love it, although do miss the ocean breezes and the familiar Yankee "How-Dee".

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